Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Trading Post #90: Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary

Brian of the blog Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary has sent me cards a bunch of times by now. He delivered again recently with another excellent trade package. On Superb Owl Sunday, (three hours to kickoff as I began this post, and what a comeback, Patriots!), I got to thinking a bit about how accurate Brian's blog title really is. This whole hobby is pretty much built on what each of us is individually drawn to. From which teams we root for (which admittedly has a lot to do with our geographic location), to what we think is appropriate in a baseball card set, it really comes down quite a bit to personal taste. Too many inserts? Not according to some. Card #7 shouldn't exist? Depends on who you ask. Yankees or Red Sox? Let's not even go there.

Except Stadium Club. Stadium Club is objectively awesome. There, I said it.

But what I found in this trade allowed me to come up with several arbitrary categories and place cards that I subjectively found awesome into them. There's a little more structure in this post than usual, and I hope you like what's to follow.

Category #1: Jon Gray Rookie Cards

2016 Bowman's Best #45 Jon Gray (RC)
Jon Gray, doing his best long-haired Noah Syndergaard impression, is certainly worthy of inclusion in the small Bowman's Best set. I haven't opened any yet, but the nameplate and team name at the bottom looks a lot to me like 2017 Topps Series 1, a recent release which has been all over the Cardsphere this week. With this much going on in the design, it's hard not to find similarities to something. And that is one monster-sized Rockies logo looming in the background.

For the first time since their inaugural season, the Rockies are making some slight tweaks to that logo. The logo itself isn't changing, but they are switching to a different shade of their trademark purple. My eye didn't pick it up, but apparently the jerseys, hats, and printed logos didn't look that consistent in various applications. So now the Rockies purple logo looks more...purpley.

Branding is important, people.

2016 Topps Bunt #141 Jon Gray (RC)
I really don't know what the rules are for the MLB Rookie Card logo, but Gray's cards in both Bunt and Bowman's Best get the treatment. And others did too. But some didn't. So it seems like it had to be a 2016 card, but not all his 2016 cards are considered rookie cards. I suppose it's just as well, as the RC logo would have marred that beautiful Stadium Club card sent by Tom.

But it seems like a pretty arbitrary rule to me. Especially since there is only one company making licensed cards these days.

Either way, it's good to see him appear in so many sets. That is a mark of success. Or at least hype. But a 16-strikeout shutout performance seems to indicate that he's the real deal.

Category #2: Uniform Numbers

2016 Topps Update #US286 Gerardo Parra
To me, this looks more like Trevor Story's card than Gerardo Parra's. Cameos are like that sometimes. It's from 2016 Topps Update, and Story was quite a newsworthy player during the first half of 2016. I'm excited for the 2017 season for a lot of reasons, but seeing Story take his place on the left side of the infield again is definitely one of them. I'd like to see this one zoomed out a little more so we could get the full view of the double-high-five, but it's a nice card and seems minimally affected by the smoke effect on 2016 Topps.

I couldn't tell you what number Parra wears (11? Nope, 8). but I hope to see Story's #27 at Coors Field for a long time to come. He wasn't the first to wear it; a slew of players I've never heard of or didn't know spent any time as a Rockie wore it in the early days. Garrett Atkins had it for a while, as did Todd Hollandsworth. But it's Story's now. And you never know when a player will come along who's the last to wear a number.

Which brings me to my next card.

1995 Collector's Choice SE #208 David Nied
David Nied, or Dave, as he's called on this Upper Deck Special Edition card, was the first-ever Rockie, selected first overall in the 1992 Expansion Draft. The Rockies had high hopes for him, but he ended up being a disappointment. Not the first time the Rockies would have trouble like that in a draft. Selecting pitching prospects that don't pan out is essentially a founding principle for this team. But Nied did wear #17, the only other Rockie to do so before it was turned over to Todd Helton.

Helton, of course, wore it proudly for seventeen seasons, coincidentally. And other than the league-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson's #42, it's the only number out of circulation at Coors Field. But the other major sports teams in Denver still use it, as neither the Nuggets, Avalanche, nor Broncos have had a superstar suit up with #17.

Yet.

Category #3: Weird Fleer Cards

2001 Fleer Legacy #82 Todd Helton
Normally I'm a fan of minimalism. No need for a lot of extra stuff or over-the-top design elements just for their own sake, sort of like that Bowman's Best card. But it has to be done right. That sparse, sort of Zen look really takes a lot of intent to get right.

This just looks lazy to me. If I had five minutes to design a baseball card, it would probably come out looking something like this. Solid white background, rectangular headshot that looks paperclipped on, an action shot, a one-letter logo in the corner with a drop shadow, and a basic all-caps font in two different colors.

I could literally do this in Microsoft Word.

It reminds me a little bit of that Jeff Francis autograph card, the one with all the empty space. But this is, frankly, bad. And worse, the back doesn't look any better. It has a couple shades of gray, the Rockies team logo that's oddly chopped in at least three places, and that same amateur Fleer logo. L is for Legacy.

Fleer was putting out an absolute ton of sets in the early 2000s, and there are only so many resources to go around. I don't think I've ever bashed a card design this harshly. But wow.

2002 Fleer Premium #91 Jeff Cirillo
Fleer got their act back together the next year, continuing their Premium set for a second and final year. It's a nice black-bordered set with a classic frame and a little silver foil. And a pretty good action shot of Cirillo covering third against the San Francisco Giants. It was likely taken in the then-new Pacific Bell Park (later SBC Park, now AT&T Park), reminding us of the AT&T breakup, and the reconsolidation of many of those once-separate entities.

So what's weird about it? Well, if you look closely, Cirillo is listed as a member of the Seattle Mariners. It's clearer on the back, as the Mariners logo and their sea green color are present. Or maybe it's aqua. Turquoise? Teal? I don't know. Us men are notorious for being able to recognize only about a dozen colors.

Category #4: Shiny Dante Bichette Cards

1996 Upper Deck Predictor Retail Exchange #R42 Dante Bichette W
Thanks to Dante Bichette's MLB-leading 128 RBIs in 1995, Upper Deck added him to their Predictor set the following year, a 120-card insert set (split into Retail and Hobby editions with 60 each). If the player pictured led the league in the listed statistic during any calendar month in 1996, the card could be sent in to Upper Deck for a 10-card foil parallel redemption set.

Believe it or not, Dante Bichette really did lead the league in RBIs in June 1996, with 39, including four in that legendary 16-15 win over the Dodgers on June 30th. His base Retail Predictor card became eligible for redemption, and I am pretty sure this foil parallel (copper-colored, UD's favorite metal) is one of the actual redemption cards. It took quite a bit of research to figure this all out, though. It looks like UD put six wild cards in the set to ensure they'd have something to do with the redemption cards in case no one won, but out of over fifty other Retail Predictor cards, only Bichette, Sammy Sosa, and Jay Buhner actually lived up to the forecast.

It was a similar story with the Hobby Predictor version of this set. Bichette won NL Player of the Month that June, and Roger CedeƱo led his category as well. There were numerous players found in both the Retail and Hobby insert sets, but Bichette was the only one to have a winning card in both.

1996 Leaf Limited #48 Dante Bichette
Bichette's stellar 1996 was the subject of his Leaf Limited card that year. This card was printed late enough in the season to mention that Player of the Month award, as well as his first-half RBI lead. He'd slip a little bit in that statistic by the end of 1996, yielding the lead to teammate Andres Galarraga.

There's no copper to be found here, as this isn't an Upper Deck product. But there's a shiny finish, a bit of gold foil, a shot taken in the distinctive Shea Stadium, and a little purple on the edges to round things out.

I always liked him when I was a kid, especially because of that perpetual .310 batting average and how much he excelled with a two-strike count. I'm glad to have a couple more cards of him to remind me of that era and that season.

Category #5: Purple Borders

2013 Topps Opening Day Toys R Us Purple Border #83 Wilin Rosario
As we all know, purple is synonymous with the Rockies. Their new purple is a little closer to what you see in the sea turtle than the border, but no other team in MLB uses it, now that the Diamondbacks abandoned it as an accent color. I'd be happy to share it with Arizona, as I find their dark gray uniforms to be hideous.

If you've finished your doctorate on Topps border parallels, you'll know that purple borders are a Toys 'R' Us exclusive. That's true for 2013 Opening Day, at least, as well as numerous other releases in the past few years. I haven't been in a Toys 'R' Us in ages. In fact, I couldn't even tell you where the nearest one is anymore. So these purple bordered cards are not something I run across very frequently. Neither Target nor Wal-Mart got exclusives in this Opening Day set, making this a pretty easy rainbow to complete, not counting the printing plates. Thanks to Brian, only the serial-numbered Blue parallel is missing from that rainbow.

The photo is similar to his shot in 2014 Stadium Club (mmmm, Stadium Club), but he's much more excited about the play that just occurred in that set, and he decided to switch over to Wilson for his chest protecting needs instead of All-Star.

2016 Donruss Optic #9 Carlos Gonzalez DK
Prizm is such a resounding success in the marketplace that Panini decided to make a second shiny set, Donruss Optic. Like Donruss sets of old, the first thirty cards or so are part of the Diamond Kings subset. They do a darn good job with this unlicensed set, especially when it's the purple-bordered parallel. It's definitely a different shade of purple than Rosario's card, so maybe those color guys know what they're talking about.

There are a couple of spots, like the border around CarGo's action shot, that catch the light with a touch of rainbow finish, and this thick card feels good to hold. It's pretty similar to the average Donruss card that's come out since 2014, but I do see a smidgen of 1972 Topps' tombstone design in the frame.

The back could use some work, though. It's mostly gray, roughly the same shade as those Diamondbacks uniforms. It's a little hard to tell if the gray splotches that spill into the white areas on the back are part of the design or just smudges. And the letters are jammed really close together in his paragraph, quoting him as "Ijustwanttoapplythatonthefieldandbethe" before it wraps to the next line as "player everybody wants me to be." Hard to tell if there is a miniscule space between those words, but it's certainly not consistent between the two lines. Maybe someone botched a Find & Replace in their text editor.

At least they still follow what Upper Deck, Fleer, and Pacific did ages ago and told me what set this is part of in the fine print. For the love of the hobby, Topps, start doing that.

Category #6: Awesome Insert Cards

1995 Stadium Club Power Zone #PZ6 Andres Galarraga
Of course there's another Galarraga card in 1995 Stadium Club that I've never seen before. Topps does like this "Power" theme, as we saw in my previous post. Galarraga is generating so much power here that he can simply fling the bat and cause a significant explosion. Who needs TNT when you have a Blake Street Bomber?

The back provides 1994 stats for his performance at home as well as in five other parks. This was before Interleague Play, so all the sites are National League stadiums, some of which aren't there anymore, or at least aren't hosting baseball. Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium remain, but the Padres, Braves, and Marlins have new places to call home now.

This isn't the first time I've thrown this fact out there, but as new as Coors Field is, having opened in just 1995, it is already the third-oldest park in the National League.

2016 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-18 Carlos Gonzalez
Sadly, the Rockies are usually out of the pennant race by the end of September. But they usually perform well enough to play spoiler in the NL West, usually against the Giants. April and May are full of hope and a strong performance, but by the time July and August roll around, things start to take a turn for the worse. By September, when the playoff picture becomes clearer and the pressure is off, things pick up again, but it's too little too late.

2007 notwithstanding, you can pretty much set your watch to it.

Regardless, none of that stopped Carlos Gonzalez from hitting a walk-off homer against the Dodgers on September 26th, 2015. Charlie Blackmon was sure to empty the Powerade cooler onto CarGo during his post-game interview, a moment that's forever documented on this Topps Opening Day insert card.

2014 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-9 Troy Tulowitzki
In breaking with the tradition I've set in this post, here's a third card in this category. When Opening Day is in the mix, there's just no telling what will happen. It seems like a long ago memory, but Troy Tulowitzki was once a Rockie, and a stellar performer on Opening Day. Not just anyone gets the 3D treatment on a Topps card. I opened quite a bit of 2014 Opening Day, but this Tulo card had eluded me until now. I'd just like to see a little more purple on it.

Category #7: Hits

2010 Topps Pro Debut Prospect Autographs #PDA-CB Charlie Blackmon S2 (AU)
It's strange to see Charlie Blackmon without that big bushy beard. Stranger even than seeing him in a minor league uniform. Until a few years ago, the Tulsa Drillers were the Double-A affiliate of the Rockies, and Blackmon progressed nicely through the Rockies' farm system and his 2010 season in Tulsa.

This is a candidate for Category #2, but that sticker auto helps put it into a category of its own. Not long after this card was printed, I started seeing Blackmon jerseys pop up at Coors Field. At the time, I found that odd. I had heard the name, but for some reason thought he was a front-office guy or part of the ownership group or something. I didn't know the farm system or the prospects even five years ago nearly as well as I do now. Part of the reason is that I almost never buy minor league cards, but also that the pipeline wasn't as promising back then.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum Spectrum Swatches #SS-GA Garrett Atkins /99 (MEM)
In case you didn't believe me that Garrett Atkins wore #27, here's proof. This UD Spectrum relic card is quite an attractive shade of blue, maybe a dark cyan? The flattened "S" that makes up the Spectrum logo is barely visible as a pattern in the blue area, which looks sort of like those SP logos on some cards that Fuji sent to me. Not that the scanner picked those up either.

I do enjoy relic cards, especially when they have a low print run like this. It's a bonus when the swatch matches the jersey in the photograph, but that is never a sure thing. Sometimes these even have pinstripes, which is not something that every team's collector has a chance to find. Since this is a 2008 card, this is probably from the 2007 season, meaning there's a chance this is from a pretty special period in Rockies history.

2007 UD Masterpieces Captured on Canvas #CC-GA Garrett Atkins (MEM)
And that's not one, but two Garrett Atkins relic cards! This black swatch looks absolutely spectacular on this framed UD Masterpieces card. If I had to pare down my collection to just a handful of sets, this would definitely make the cut. I'd almost say these are the pinnacle zenith peak of a painted card design, what Diamond Kings was always trying to be.

Especially because they spelled "masterpieces" correctly.

Category #8: Green Topps Finest Cards

1994 Finest Superstar Samplers #35 Andres Galarraga
You knew this was coming, didn't you?

1994 Finest has made plenty of appearances around here, but this happens to be a Superstar Sampler parallel, which I've never heard of before. I know about the pre-production versions, and of course there is the base version. All I need is the refractor to complete the rainbow.

Apparently Topps picked 45 cards from the Finest base set, printed up these partial parallels with a circular red seal on the back, and included them as promos in Baker's Dozen varieties of 1994 Topps factory sets, along with a similar Bowman and Stadium Club card of the same player. I vaguely remember my old Beckett magazines referring to those factory sets, but I had no idea what made them so special. I've never seen a Bowman or Stadium Club Superstar variety, or at least if I did, I never flipped it over. I'll have to check my 1994 binders now that I know these exist.

Good thing I'm not a Griffey collector. I'm sure his card from this set sells for some ridiculous amount of money. Probably not the $2,000 that his 1993 Finest Refractor goes for, but still more than I'd care to spend.

2014 Finest Gold Refractors #30 Carlos Gonzalez /50
Supply and demand is real. There are about five times as many 1993 Finest Refractors of Ken Griffey Jr. as of this Gold Refractor, but this one goes for about $8 on eBay. Which is still a lot for a modern card. But I doubt this one will end up in a safe deposit box. Incidentally, The Junior Junkie, proud owner of one of those rare Griffeys, originally sent me the base version of this card. There isn't as much green in this one as you see in 1994 Finest, but there's a bit, and it's enough to earn a spot in this final category.

I feel like I have a pretty good memory, and my mom is often in awe of the encyclopedic knowledge I seem to have about this sport and the hobby. I have no idea how some people remember who sent them each card in their collection, where they got it, even how much they paid. I can remember that for my most special cards, but I had to look through my past blogs to figure out where the base card came from. I had originally thought it was Julie, who recently made a triumphant return to the Cardsphere, but that was an incorrect guess. Unless she sent a second copy.

I think to a larger degree than most of us would care to admit, these blogs are for us just as much as they are for our audience. There were a lot of great cards in this trade, and I'm sure I'll be referring back once The Trading Post #180 rolls around.


6 comments:

  1. That Galarraga TSC insert is awesome!

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  2. Awesome - I plan on packing up some more Rockies soon!

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  3. i don't recall seeing the Fleer Legacy release. Certainly not a memorable card! Brian sent a lot of great stuff! I love the bold logo backgrounds on Bowmans Best.

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  4. That was a heck of a package! Having not seen them before, it was neat to learn about the Superstar Samplers.

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  5. Nice variety of Rox here.. I used to collect Dante Bichette back in the day. And I'm a big fan of any Rockies cards with a purple border.

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